What Is the Hardware Lifecycle? Factors to Consider Before Purchasing

 

There are major pitfalls of not considering the hardware lifecycle when purchasing new hardware for your organization. When you put that time and money into purchasing that new server or new workstation, have you taken into consideration the lifecycle of that product, and what you’re going to do when the lifecycle is up? Do you know what the repercussions are if that server or workstation reaches the end of its lifecycle and you haven’t considered what you’re going to do about it?

At ProServeIT, our Managed Services experts frequently address these questions with our customers, and, with our depth of knowledge in this subject, we wanted to share some of our thoughts with you. In this blog, we’ll talk about what the hardware lifecycle is, what factors you should consider regarding your hardware lifecycle before purchasing, and how we can help you come up with a solution at the end of the lifecycle.

 

What Is the Hardware Lifecycle?

Basically, the hardware lifecycle helps you to understand how long you’re going to get from a piece of hardware before it becomes too costly or too risky for you to maintain.

Let’s take a look at the hardware lifecycle of a typical server. Once purchased and installed, a typical server has a 5-year lifecycle of working at optimal performance, and is covered under warranty if something should go wrong.

After this 5-year period is up, a host of things could potentially happen: vital components start to break, the warranty expires, and the operating systems it is running could stop being supported (like, for example, the end of support for SQL Server 2008 that was just announced). You want to manage that server’s lifecycle and have a plan in place that will either transition you to a new server or give you extended warranty on the current one, so that you don’t run into problems that are going to end up costing you more money than the equipment is worth.

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Factors to Consider for Hardware Lifecycle

At ProServeIT, we recommend a 5-year plan for servers, and a 3 to 6-year plan for workstations, depending on the brand you’re buying and what you’re doing with them. Operating Systems also often follow a 5-year plan, which sometimes offers an “extended support” plan for a further 3 to 5 years.

When you’re buying this equipment, though, are you having the hardware lifecycle discussion with the provider you’re purchasing the equipment from? Are you making plans of what to do about the lifecycle of that product you’re buying? What are you going to do with that equipment in five years’ time?

Consider this: according to our 15+ years of experience with numerous customers, we know that there’s an almost guaranteed 75% failure rate on at least one drive of your server in the 5th, 6th, or 7th year of operation. We build our servers with hard drive redundancy, but what happens when two or more drives fail? That puts your organization in jeopardy of losing important company data! Of course, it’s recommended to always protect your servers with multiple drives so that you have a back-up of all data you’re storing in them, but without a proper hardware lifecycle plan in place, you are still putting yourself and your organization at risk. Hopefully you’ve built enough back-up plans and contingencies if something does fail, but why chance it in the first place? Why not consider how you’re going to transition older servers or other hardware before it becomes a problem?

Haven’t had a chance to back-up your work, or haven’t considered the importance of site recovery? Here’s a short video on Azure Site Recovery and how you can implement it in your organization, and click the button below the video to sign up for the full webinar on-demand.


Hardware Lifecycle Risks to Consider

Let’s take a look at a few of the prominent risks that you could run by extending your hardware lifecycle. In addition to the costs associated with hardware failure, you also need to consider these three factors:

  • Downtime: Should anything happen to your hardware, how much time will it take to get a replacement in? How much time will your organization be without that vital hardware? While it might not be as big an issue for a specific workstation, downtime is a major risk factor when extending the lifecycle of your servers, and should be carefully considered as part of your hardware lifecycle plan.
  • Loss of Data: What happens to your company data if one (or more) of your servers fails? Do you have adequate back-up in place to ensure that you don’t lose that data for good? As mentioned in the section above, there is a significant risk of losing your corporate data if you try and extend your hardware beyond its recommended lifecycle. This is another important risk to address before the hardware lifecycle runs out.
  • Lack of Support Could Lead to Security Risks: Of course, security must be paramount in any consideration, and you need to be aware of any end-of-support dates for operating systems that you might be running to ensure that your security protocols aren’t going to leave you vulnerable for a zero-day attack.

 

What About the Hardware Lifecycle for Workstations?

Similarly, it’s important to consider what kind of equipment you’re purchasing for your employees. Again, depending on what you’re buying for your organization, you are typically looking at a 3 to 6-year lifecycle for workstations (laptops, desktop computers, operating systems, etc.). But, what happens after those 3-6 years is up?

Unlike servers, workstations typically have a bit of a buffer in their lifecycle. It’s usually a matter of whether or not the equipment is still working, and, in some cases, so long as you’re running adequate security protocols, you may get longer than 6 years from current workstations you’re operating. However, keep an ear open for complaints like:

  • My workstation is too slow!
  • It takes too long to boot up my laptop
  • My computer says it’s running out of RAM!
  • It takes me five minutes to open a Word document! or
  • I can’t open a document coming from a newer version!

If you’re hearing your employees saying anything along these lines, it’s a very good indication that workstation has reached the end of its lifecycle and should be replaced.

 

Here are Some Hardware Lifecycle Questions You Should Ask

At ProServeIT, we suggest that you start planning for the end of the hardware lifecycle around year 3 of the 5-year timeline. Our Managed Services team is capable of building this conversation into our relationship with you, and discuss your options before the need becomes critical. Some of the things we can cover with you include:

  • What kind of solution would work best for your organization?
  • Is it time to consider a hybrid approach?
  • Have you considered moving towards the Cloud? If not, why not?
  • How can we create a phased approach for you to replace legacy hardware?

Talk to our experts now about your current hardware lifecycle, and we’ll help you with your decisions and planning at the end of Year 5.